In the days of traditional media, tasks were completed by those with specialized skills: photographers took photos, editors edited the photos, marketers set up what images they needed, and account executives worked with clients to oversee the entire project to ensure it met the client’s needs. The process could take months of work. In today’s digital world, you may need an image in the next 10 minutes to craft a post responding to a trending topic or to counter a negative comment. There’s no time to use specialized professionals. Instead, you need to develop your photography skills and edit your own content. In today’s world, that means OK images in 10 minutes are better than perfect images in 3 months.
Importance of photography for marketing
Among the many benefits of using images in your marketing are:
- Images are memorable so if you’re working to build awareness of your brand, there’s no better tool than images
- You know the saying that “a picture paints a thousand words”? Well, it’s true. There’s no faster means to share information or ensure clarity than to use an image (or video).
- Images encourage readers to consume more of your content. Did you know that the average blog reader only spends 37 seconds reading a post? That means they primarily scan your content rather than reading it from start to finish. Images draw the reader down the content to encourage deeper reading. Experts advise inserting an image on each screen of content you create and SEO experts recommend at least one image per post.
- Using images in email messages or on social media promotes engagement (likes, shares, comments) and email open rates. Obviously, gaining engagement and encouraging subscribers to open your email translates into opportunities to sell your good and services.
- Using images is a great way to support customers and drive sales, especially if your target market is international because images transcend borders. In fact, many consumers prefer to get support via image or video content such as explainer videos.
Types of images
You have lots of options when it comes to adding photos and other images to your content. You might use stock images (with proper attribution), create your own images from photos, or use graphic design tools to build images. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.
These days you can buy stock images very cheaply or find ones available for free for users providing proper attribution. The advantage of stock images is the versatility of using them and their low cost. The downside is the time spent searching for just the right image among millions of stock images across multiple sites and the overuse of stock images makes it hard for your site and brand to create a unique image.
Custom images are great for building a brand and expressing exactly what you want. The downside is that it takes time and effort to create custom images and a good bit of skill to design attractive images.
You can use paid tools like Canva of Pablo to customize stock images to form something that you can brand by adding your logo and branded colors. This involves much less effort and skill than custom images but has some benefits available from stock images. Check out this Pablo image below.
Infographics are a great source of images for sharing by combining images and text to share more complex information than an image alone.
People love infographics (they improve draw to your content by 12%) and they draw backlinks from other websites to support your SEO (search engine optimization). They also help build your brand as an expert. Infographics are very time-consuming to create.
If you don’t have time to create your own infographics (and tools like Canva help do some of the heavy lifting), you can include infographics created by others (with proper attribution) to increase awareness and draw in visitors.
Often, a mixture of different types of images is optimal as it reduces your effort while still positioning your brand well.
Develop your photography skills
If you want to develop your photography skills, you need a few things to get started. Even if you’re not interested in going beyond creating images for yourself, you should develop your photography skills with the following:
1. Invest in quality equipment:
Quality equipment can make or break the quality of your photos, so it’s important to invest in the best possible camera and lenses that fit within your budget. Consider purchasing used cameras and lenses if you need to save money—you should also regularly maintain and upgrade your equipment as needed.
If you’re mainly interested in developing your photography skills in support of your marketing efforts, a good-quality smartphone might be all you need, especially for Instagram. But, invest in some quality lighting and backgrounds since this makes it easier to develop a good finished product.
2. Invest in education
It’s important to invest in professional, quick image edits and photography courses so you can learn the basics and improve your skills. Even for marketing purposes, you need to develop your photography skills with image editing, whether it’s cleaning up a less-than-perfect image, adding captions, or changing some colors, you need skills to use editing software like Photoshop.
To be a successful photographer, you need to understand the basics of camera settings, lighting, and composition. You should also have an understanding of photo editing software so you can enhance your photos after they have been taken.
You’ll find many online courses available that offer comprehensive training, as well as live workshops where you can get hands-on experience.
3. Take risks and experiment with different styles of photography:
Photography is an ever-evolving art form, so it’s important to stay on trend and try different techniques to keep your photos fresh and interesting. Don’t be afraid to take risks— taking calculated chances can help push you further in your career and could even lead to new opportunities down the line.
Online platforms reward risk-taking by filming from different angles, with different filters, and using different lighting techniques. Try taking photos of unique scenery, different subjects, and mix things up so your images always look fresh.
Using these experiments, you can help your images stand out from the crowd of others users see online.
4. Have a business plan
Having a business plan is essential for any successful business. Before you jump in by developing your photography skills, think about the types of images that fit the brand you envision.
- What color schemes fit the feeling you’re going for? Blues tend to fit business while green evokes images of environmental concern. Hot and cold colors have an impact on how viewers feel about your company.
- Do images fit the vision you have for your brand or do they make some users think of things that have a negative attribution to users?
- Logos are important for branding so the images you create as your logo need to last a long time. As you can see below, the evolution of a logo happens over time and may cause controversy among your customers.
5. Find a mentor or coach
Having someone experienced in the field is invaluable when taking on any new career path, and this holds true in photography as well. A mentor or coach can provide guidance regarding technical skills, career strategies, and tips for success.
6. Start small
Don’t expect to become a successful photographer overnight. Start small and take on simple projects or gigs that help you build your portfolio and understand the ins and outs of the business. As time goes on, you can start taking on more complex projects with larger budgets.
Adding images and photos to your marketing efforts is a very creative pursuit that can bring you a lot of joy. With these tips in mind, you should be able to make an informed decision about the best ways to add more color to your branding. Keep in mind that it will require dedication, hard work, and patience—but the end results could potentially be life-changing!
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.